Simple pleasures of daily life in Taormina…

Catherine, a student at our language school in Sicily has written about daily life in Taormina, the activities on offer and the simple pleasures of daily life enjoyed all the better after learning Italian

My parents, avid travellers, introduced me to the joys of exploring new places and cultures at an early age and I have spent my vacations since then seeing as much of the world as possible.  My most memorable and rewarding travel experience to date has been the time that I recently spent in Taormina, Sicily attending a full-immersion language school there.

Taormina is a postcard-perfect town of approximately 12,000 full-time residents situated on Monte Tauro and overlooking the Ionian Sea.  The views in every direction are spectacular and, on most days, both Reggio di Calabria and the snow-capped peak of Mt. Etna are clearly visible.

I arrived in this paradise one evening in late February just as the sun was setting, the sky a deep red, and the air filled with the smell of lemons.  The school had arranged for a lovely apartment on a quiet street near the public gardens and I was made to feel immediately at home.  It was clear when I began my classes that the instructors genuinely enjoy teaching and their enthusiasm and encouragement made learning Italian, not an especially easy language, a real pleasure.

After classes during the week and on Saturdays, the school offered a wide selection of extra-curricular activities including free seminars on Italian and Sicilian history, literature, music, film, group dinners and tastings at local restaurants/bars, hiking trips, and day excursions to other parts of the island including the exotic nearby Aeolian islands.  I did not experience a single moment of boredom during my stay and, in fact, was often overwhelmed by the number and variety of my choices.

I hiked Monte Venere, river trekked in Cava Grande, walked through the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, was inspired by the ancient mosaics at Villa Imperiale del Casale, enjoyed the best seafood dinner ever at a nondescript little restaurant near Acireale (I have no idea what I ate but it was divine), went parasailing in Letojanni, took in a Falcon show in Castelmola, and soaked up the warm, Spring rays on the beautiful, nearby beaches of Giardini Naxos and Isola Bella.

My most special memories, however, are of the small, simple pleasures of daily life in Taormina – the mouth-watering scents wafting out of the pasticcerias on my walk to school, being recognized and not charged extra for sitting down to drink my morning cappucino at the local bar, the wonderful taste of Sicilian bread fresh from the forno, the mimosa flowers received from strangers while walking along Via Corso Umberto during the Festa della Donna, the daily specials at my “regular” trattoria described to me in Italian and then served personally by the chef (instead of being handed a tourist menu in 3 languages), eating granita Sicilian-style with a brioche on hot days, the kind way that the locals complimented my Italian even when I had clearly miscongiugated every verb and mispronounced every other word, the sweetness of the oranges at the farmer’s market, being taught how to play the Sicilian card game Scopa by the regulars at Piazza IX Aprile…

While this course no longer runs in Sicily, we have several great holidays for learning Italian in Italy.